Monday, August 30, 2004
BIRMINGHAM -- One of the many distinct voices to call University of Alabama football games passed away on Sunday. Charles H. (Charley) Zeanah, 80, of Birmingham, died on August 29 after a long and courageous battle with Parkinson's disease.
In the 1940s, Zeanah began his career as a radio broadcaster, serving as chief announcer and sports director at WJRD in Tuscaloosa and sports director of WSFA-TV in Montgomery. He coordinated The University of Alabama football broadcasts over a Southeastern network of 52 radio stations, becoming known as the "Voice of the Crimson Tide." In 1951, he was signed by BBD&O Advertising Agency in New York City to do LSU football broadcasts for Ethyl Corporation over a network of stations throughout the South. Thus began his corporate career with Ethyl.
A Tuscaloosa native, Mr. Zeanah was director of corporate community relations with Ethyl Corporation in Richmond, Vir., before retiring in 1984 and moving back to Alabama. During his 33-year career as an Ethyl public relations executive with international responsibilities, he made numerous trips abroad and worked in Baton Rouge, La., Houston, Tex., New York City, and Richmond, Vir.
Mr. Zeanah was an active community leader wherever he lived, believing that "if you take something from the soil, you should put something back." He played leadership roles in the Chamber of Commerce, United Way, American Cancer Society, and Junior Achievement, among other organizations dedicated to helping others. A lifelong Rotarian, Mr. Zeanah was a senior active member of the Rotary Club of Birmingham and a Paul Harris Fellow. He served on the Rotary board in Baton Rouge and was president-elect when transferred to Richmond, where he also served Rotary as a board member. He is a former member of the Monday Morning Quarterback Club in Birmingham.
Well-known as a public relations practitioner, Mr. Zeanah was accredited by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) in 1967 and named a PRSA Fellow in 1993. He served PRSA as a national board member, district chairman of the Mid-South and Mid-Atlantic Districts, president of the Old Dominion Chapter, and trustee of the Foundation for Public Relations Research and Education. As an active member of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA), he worked with Belgian and Greek agencies to help create a better understanding among practitioners around the globe. In the mid-1970s, he was a sought-after speaker for civic, press, and professional groups across the country on how news media and business could better work together. His definition of public relations as an art and a science was adopted by practitioners in the United States and abroad and published in national and international professional journals. He conceived and coordinated the publication of Ethyl Digest, which won a Freedom Foundation Award for its promotion of good corporate citizenship in a free enterprise system.
A University of Alabama alumnus and ATO, Mr. Zeanah was vice president of the University's National Alumni Association from 1958-60. The School of Communication selected him as 1975 Outstanding Alumnus in Advertising and Public Relations, and the University's Athletics Department recognized him in 2000 for his contributions to Alabama football. As a volunteer in retirement, he interviewed former coaches and players for a taped oral history of the Crimson Tide that is now a valuable resource in the archives of the Paul W. Bryant Museum in Tuscaloosa.
Mr. Zeanah attended the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham and had served as senior warden at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Richmond. He is a former member of the Baton Rouge Country Club, the City Club of Baton Rouge, and the Hermitage Country Club and Commonwealth Club in Richmond. He was a member of The Club in Birmingham.
Zeanah is survived by his wife of 25 years, the former Janis Thomas Hawk a native of Montgomery; his son, Dr. Charles H. Zeanah, Jr., (Paula) of New Orleans and his daughter, Sarah Zeanah Chakales (James M.) of Richmond; grandchildren, Emily, Katy, and Melanie Zeanah, Mary Hunter Sanders, and Mason Chakales. Other survivors are his stepson Jett Thomas Hawk (Alison) and stepdaughter Caroline Hawk Sparrow (Callen); and stepgrandchildren John and Stewart Hawk, Elizabeth and Cece Sparrow, all of Birmingham; and Sarah and Kenzie Chakales of Richmond. He also is survived by his sister, Mrs. W. C. Ray, nephew Tommy Ray (Anne), and nieces Billie Collins and Shirley Jones, all of Tuscaloosa. He was predeceased by his wife of 24 years, the former Sarah Martin of Montgomery, and his parents Mr. and Mrs. Henry Lester Zeanah of Tuscaloosa.
A graveside service will be held at Greenwood Cemetery in Montgomery on Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 3 p.m.with the Rev. Robert Wisnewski officiating. Visitation in Birmingham will be at Ridout's Valley Chapel, 1800 Oxmoor Road, on Tuesday, Aug. 31, from 4-6 p.m. and in Montgomery at Greenwood Memorial Chapel, 909 Lincoln Road, an hour before the service. Memorials may be directed to Parkinson's disease research at the UAB Neurology Department, 350 Sparks Center, 1720 7th Ave. S., Birmingham, AL 35233, or to the Birmingham Rotary Club Foundation, 2019 4th Ave. N., Birmingham, AL 35203. Ridout's Valley Chapel directing.